Is more always better? Well, we do like our “buy one, get one free” sales at the supermarket…. But what about when there’s a difference in quality? Can an increase in quantity or size make up for lower quality? If you went to a restaurant that offered you a tender, 8-ounce portion of a prime cut of steak perfectly cooked, and their competition across the street offered a tough, grisly, 48-ounce piece of shoe leather masquerading as a steak, half burnt and the other half still raw, for the same price, would it be much of a choice?* Short of a starvation scenario, most people would probably opt for the small, high-quality steak over the much larger nasty steak. But what if the difference is more significant? All the seawater in the ocean doesn’t take the place of 1 bottle of clean pure water for the man dying of thirst. Indeed, gulping down saltwater will only kill him faster. That small amount of pure water is worth more to him than all the quadrillions of gallons of saltwater in the world’s oceans.
Blaise Pascal highlighted this distinction between quantity and quality in his Pensées when he compared the seeming insignificance of man to the vastness of the universe. Skeptics often make the same comparison, but come to very different conclusions. Some have ridiculed Christians for thinking humans are special when we are less than a speck compared to the immensity of the uncaring universe. Some have thought us quite arrogant for considering humans to be special. But the immensity of the universe is really only a red herring that distracts us from the difference in quality. Consider Pascal’s insight:
“Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapour, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows none of this…. Through space the universe grasps me and swallows me up like a speck; through thought I grasp it.”
He’s right. Humans may live fragile lives on a “pale blue dot” circling one of billions of stars in one galaxy among billions in the universe, and yet… all the fiery stars and desolate planets can’t be aware of their own existence, can’t appreciate the beauty they are part of, can’t compose a love sonnet, can’t even ask why that is the case. For all the overwhelming size of the universe, it cannot do what even a child can. Even among life on Earth, when we find similar behavior between ourselves and animals, humans still seem to be not just a little ahead of the animals compared, but miles ahead. Some people like to try to reduce humans to mere animals, but the gap between humans and the nearest animal in terms of consciousness, rationality, understanding, judgment, and intentionality, is really quite staggering. Why is that? The Bible provides the answer: humans, unlike animals, or anything else in our universe, were created in the image of God [Gen 1:27]. We can think and reason like God [Is 1:18]; we are relational like our triune God; we are creative, in imitation of our Creator; we love, because He first loved us [1Jo 4:19].
Although skeptics will often point to the infinitesimal size of our whole world compared to the cosmos, as a strike against humanity being “by design”, it is interesting to note how finely balanced our universe is – on a razor’s edge, as it were – and how science is finding more and more that our world wouldn’t even be able to exist and support complex life except in such a massive universe. It is also worth considering that an immense universe that dwarfs us and fills us with awe and wonder might just be a reasonable calling card of an eternal, transcendent, all-powerful, all-knowing God. On that note, I leave you with the words of King David, who came to that very conclusion 3,000 years ago:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
Psalm 19:1-2, NET
* For the vegetarians/vegans out there, substitute whatever would be a comparable delicacy for you 😉
 Blaise Pascal, Pensées #347, 348, quoted in Peter Kreeft’s Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensées –Edited, Outlined, & Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press,1993), p. 55,57.